The Kent City Council has approved a 35-foot height limit on buildings constructed on property within 300 feet of single-family residential zones.
The Council passed the ordinance at its Jan. 4 meeting. The ordinance becomes effective Feb. 3. The city had no previous height limit on buildings.
Kent resident Michael Johnson proposed the height limit to the city after developer Robert Slattery announced plans in 2009 to build a six-story apartment complex along West Smith Street next to the Mill Creek neighborhood.
City planners never received a permit application from Slattery to build the apartment complex, said city planner William Osborne. But that property where the apartment complex had been proposed now falls under the new height limit.
Residents were concerned such a tall apartment complex would impact the values of their homes by blocking sunlight, views and bringing too much traffic to the area.
As an example, Stafford Suites, a retirement community next to the Kent Senior Center, is about 55 feet high and is within 300 feet of single-family homes.
Under the new requirements, the development would not have permitted for construction, Osborne said.
Developers can still construct buildings taller than 35 feet in Kent’s downtown commercial enterprise zone.
The tallest building downtown is the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center at about 95 feet, Osborne said. The Green River Community College branch campus at Kent Station is about 60 feet high.
A two-to-three story building typically is about 35 feet high. Ground floors are usually around 15 feet and each additional floor adds another 10 feet, Osborne said.
The Council’s Economic and Community Development committee, the city Land Use and Planning Board and city staff studied and reviewed the height limit ordinance before the Council adopted it. City officials also held several public hearings.
The economic impact of the height limit remains to be determined. Few developers have looked at building in Kent because of the current economic conditions, even with the unrestricted height limit downtown.
“Looking at the trends we have not seen a lot of development proposals in the downtown area,” Osborne said.
City officials are looking at coming up with a new downtown strategic plan over the next couple of years that could address the impact of height limits.
“There are still a lot of opportunities in the core of downtown,” Osborne said.